Monte Isola, commonly referred to as Montisola, is an Italian town of about 1600 inhabitants in the province of Lombardy. It covers the island of the same name in the expanse of Lake Iseo.
It is by far the largest lake island in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. Monte Isola is also the third best European tourist resort.
Monte Isola is not a regular flat island at all. It’s a small mountain in the middle of a lake which only adds to its appeal. The highest point is 600m above sea level!
Monte Isola on Lake Iseo
Getting Around on Monte Isola
It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. This jewel of Lake Iseo boasts a timeless atmosphere and the noticeable absence of busy and bustling car traffic.
In fact, only mopeds, bicycles and a few vehicles can circulate on the island. This makes Monte Isola an ideal destination for quiet family outings. Or, endlessly long days of relaxation and taking in the scenery and culture.
The roads that connect the various towns are ideal for bicycles. There are several routes. Some flat, others uphill, some along the lake and others halfway up the coast so you have lots of choice. Bicycles can be ferried across or rented in either Peschiera Maraglio or Carzano.
Things to do on Monte Isola
In addition to the rich history you can absorb on this island haven, it’s the perfect place to unwind and take things in at your own pace. We highly recommend exploring the island on foot or bicycle. This allows you to pay attention to all of the intricacies which make this place so special.
Why not sit by the marina in Peschiera Maraglio and watch the boats come in and out whilst sampling a local tasting platter? Or you can simply sit in the sunshine at one of the outdoor cafes or restaurants with a glass of some fine local wine, watching the world pass by without a care.
Even those smaller appetites will love the selection as the artisanal paninos have fresh local produce such as tomatoes and mozzarella. The perfect on the go snack, or taking in the view from a high vantage point back across to the mainland.
The island setting means there’s always a gentle and cooling breeze which is welcome on warmer days when you simply want to roam and explore the natural area in your own time.
Ferries come and go regularly, so you can arrive early, spend the day discovering Monte Isola and jump on one back at your convenience.
Historic places to see in Monte Isola
Before the arrival of the Romans in Lombardy, Monte Isola was the site of a sacred pagan temple. However, Roman nobles had already understood its tourist potential and charm, and made it a holiday resort for a select few. From the 5th century onwards, Christian missionaries arrived here and in the early Middle Ages the Cluniac monks founded their own monastery. Around it the first village arose.
The inhabited center of Monte Isola is Siviano, a delightful medley of medieval houses with monuments dating back to the 14th century. The church of St. Faustino and Giovita and the Martinengo Tower to name just two.
The second largest population center here is the quaint village of Peschiera Maraglio, featuring a marina. Here you’ll find the most beautiful monuments, such as the 17th century church of San Michele Arcangelo.
San Michele Arcangelo is the parish church of Peschiera Maraglio, on the ruins of the previous church from the 17th century. The whole church is replete with Sarnico marble which sets the tone perfectly with a staircase and Tuscan pilasters. The door is ebony and features two reliefs of elegant cornucopias. The interior has a barrel-vaulted nave richly decorated with stuccoes, frescoes and floral motifs.
Madonna della Cerinola sanctuary
The highest town on the island is Cure, where the Madonna della Cerinola sanctuary is located. It’s a must see for tourists who want a blend of culture and gorgeous vistas over the lake. The sanctuary is served by a cobbled mule track. It’s also possible to go up on foot along a path that starts near Peschiera Maraglio.
Along the path leading to the sanctuary, there are 15 chapels celebrating the mysteries of the rosary, built in the second half of the 20th century.
Monte Isola is famous for hosting the famous work of the artist Christo “The Floating Piers”. This island boasts small marinas, public green corners, a castle, a wonderful sanctuary, paths suitable for trekking or cycling as well as wonderful panoramic points.
North of Montisola lies the island of Loreto. At the end of the 15th century the island was bought by the Sisters of Santa Chiara of Brescia. They built a convent there, however, the structure was abandoned less than 200 years later.
The historian Gabriele Rosa recalls that at the end of the 19th century there were still traces of ruins. These were probably remains of ancient fortifications. In the Alpine Guide of Brescia, 1889, the presence of abandonded convents were reported on the island.
The island then became the property of the Duchess Felicita Bevilacqua La Masa. It was later sold to Vincenzo Richeri in 1900, vessel captain in the Regia Marina. In the following decade, he built a neo-Gothic style castle on the island. He also created a garden full of conifers, a small harbor and two lighthouse towers.
Monte Isola is one of the many hidden gems scattered up and down Italy and the islands. Ask us about incorporating it into your itinerary or arranging an excursion there if visiting the northern region of Lombardy.